Does Canadiens locker room really need attitude adjustment?

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If you listened to the year-end press conferences in Montreal on Monday, you noticed that general manager Marc Bergevin and owner Geoff Molson used the word “attitude” several times throughout their hour-long media availability. For those of you that are familiar with Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens, you probably realized that it sounded a lot like the “lack of character” speech he delivered after the 2015-16 season. What happened that summer? The Canadiens traded P.K. Subban. So what’s going to happen this time around?

Bergevin made it abundantly clear that, in his mind, adding all the talent in the world wouldn’t matter much if the players coming into the locker room didn’t have a better attitude than the group that’s in there right now.

“It was a disappointing season from start to finish, and that was unacceptable,” Bergevin said in his opening remarks. “The overall attitude of our team needs to change. We will do a complete assessment of our hockey operations and as the general manager I take my share of responsibilities for the season, but we’re all in this together.

“I believe that an attitude can change a lot of things. Players? of course, players can make things better, but if you have good players that don’t have the right attitude- I could bring anybody here and if the attitude is not better, we’re going to be in the same spot. And it’s my job to address that and it started today.”

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

With one breath, Bergevin took some of the blame for what happened in Montreal this year, with another breath, he made sure to mention the attitude problem countless times. But let’s be real, the players’ poor attitude didn’t sign Karl Alzner to a rich five-year contract, the players’ poor attitude didn’t sign Ales Hemsky and Mark Streit to replace Alexander Radulov and Andrei Markov. Yes, the Hemsky and Streit signings were low-risk, but those two veterans were expected to contribute.

That’s not to say that Bergevin hasn’t made good moves during his tenure as GM (he acquired Jeff Petry via trade, he stole Phillip Danault from Chicago), but he’s had a bit more of a difficult time over the last couple of years. Sure, a better attitude may have helped the Canadiens win a few more games this season, but having better players on their roster would have had more of an impact on the win column in 2017-18.

Since acquiring Shea Weber two years ago, the Canadiens still haven’t found a left-handed defenseman to play with him. Prior to the start of training camp, Bergevin mentioned David Schlemko and Jordie Benn as possible partners for their number one blue liner. As most would’ve expected, that didn’t work out too well.

Then, there’s the hole(s) down the middle that they haven’t been able to fill. Heading into the offseason, there’s a legitimate case to be made that they need a first line center and a second line center to be competitive. Of course, there’s a unique opportunity to land a player like John Tavares should he decide to hit unrestricted free agency. But if that doesn’t work out, where will that leave them?

Does going after 32-year-olds like Paul Stastny or Tyler Bozak make sense? Probably, but landing free agents isn’t easy. They’ll probably have to pay way over market value for older players who play the position, but they have no choice if they want to be competitive again.

That leads us to our last question. Is patching up holes with veterans a better alternative to rebuilding from the ground up? The organization doesn’t seem to think so. We’ll see if the decision proves to be right or wrong over the next few years.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Report: Habs owner stepped in to get Subban deal done

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When P.K. Subban signed his eight-year, $72 million deal with the Montreal Canadiens, it’s easy to forget his contract was nearly settled by an arbitrator.

While Subban and Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin were unable to get a deal done initially and went through the full process of arbitration, according to Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette, it was Habs owner Geoff Molson who made sure the court’s decision would never be heard.

“A highly place source has confirmed our theory that it was indeed Molson who overruled GM Marc Bergevin, when it appeared that the club might be saddled with a single-year arbitration contract and a disgruntled star. It was Molson’s call to sign P.K. long-term and it was exactly right.”

Money is and has never been an issue for the Canadiens, so Molson stepping up and getting a deal done worth $9 million per year against the cap isn’t a big deal. Bergevin holding a hard line with Subban to the point where the Habs star may have become disgruntled about not being able to sign long-term is perhaps the most surprising aspect of this.

That said, Molson may wind up being hailed as a hero after all this. Fans in Montreal were eager to have Subban stay in the city and to not potentially go through the agonizing drama of seeing him go to free agency in two years and potentially end up with a rival team.

Call it whatever you want, but at the very least that’s smart business by the owner.

Jim Nill won’t be the next Canadiens GM

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While the Montreal Canadiens’ search for a new GM to replace Pierre Gauthier rages on, one hot name on their list is taking himself out of the running.

Detroit Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill tells Ansar Khan of mlive.com that while he had discussions with Montreal, he won’t be the guy to take over the Canadiens.

“I had two great talks with Montreal; I was interested, they were interested,” Nill said. “But it’s not the right time.”

Nill says an illness in his family made it so now wasn’t the right time to make such a bold move. Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch gave the Canadiens permission to speak with Nill and given Nill’s track record over his 18 years in Detroit, he would make an outstanding candidate.

Now the Habs will turn their attention elsewhere with an unknown list of candidates for owner Geoff Molson and special assistant Serge Savard to work from. By now you’ve heard about Patrick Roy’s interest in working in the NHL and how his “cellphone is always on” in case someone wants to call.

Roy on Habs job: “I have had no discussions whatsoever with Mr. Molson, but my cellphone is always turned on”

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You can’t really say Patrick Roy has been campaigning for a job with the Montreal Canadiens. You can’t also say he’s been hush-hush about the rumors that the Habs might look in his direction to be either the next coach or general manager of the team either.

Roy tells Marianne White of Postmedia News that while he hasn’t spoken to Canadiens owner Geoff Molson, he’s not exactly avoiding him either.

“I have had no discussions whatsoever with (Habs owner) Mr. (Geoff) Molson,” Roy told reporters in Quebec City Friday during an end-of-season newser for the Quebec Remparts. 

“But my cellphone is always turned on.” 

Roy has made it clear that he’s more than happy to return to his job with the QMJHL Remparts, but if a NHL team wants to talk to him about a job opening there, he’s all ears. That is if his ears aren’t being plugged up by the Stanley Cup rings he’s won after all.

Whether Roy would be sought out to take Pierre Gauthier’s job as the team GM or replace Randy Cunneyworth as the coach is unclear, but with Serge Savard leading the search for new candidates for both jobs guys with a touch of old school Habs history to their style will be welcome.

Montreal owner Molson on GM search: “It is our preference to have someone that can speak French”

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Shortly after the announcement that GM Pierre Gauthier had been relieved of his duties, Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson conducted a press conference to reveal plans for the future.

Some highlights:

— Molson was praised for his delivery, poise…and for starting the presser speaking French (gotta love Montreal.) John Bartlett of TSN Radio 990 said Molson “was prepared, confident and looked like someone in full control today,” while Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette said the Canadiens owner “sparkled in this news conference.”

— As the posts title suggests, the general manager search will (at least partially) involve finding a dual-language speaker. Molson did stress, though, that the top criteria is finding the best possible GM.

— On the subject of hiring Patrick Roy, Molson said he hasn’t spoken with Roy since his jersey retirement celebration. Which is weird, because Roy’s jersey was retired in 2008.

— Former Habs GM Serge Savard has been retained as advisor in the search for a new general manager. Also, Larry Carriere returns to his duties as assistant general manager and will take on hockey operations responsibilities until the appointment of a new GM.

— Molson added that special advisor Bob Gainey has left the organization.

— On the subject of interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth, Molson said he would leave it up to the next GM to determine if he’s retained.

Finally, here’s the entire press conference for your viewing pleasure. (Note: his en francais introduction isn’t included but, as many have noted, Molson opened speaking French.)